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Journal of Long-Term Effects of Medical Implants

ISSN Print: 1050-6934
ISSN Online: 1940-4379

Journal of Long-Term Effects of Medical Implants

DOI: 10.1615/JLongTermEffMedImplants.v18.i1.330
35 pages

Abstract of "Come Fly with Me: A Critique of Andrew Stark's Proposed Restriction on Biomedical Technology"

Felicia Nimue Ackerman
Department of Philosophy, Brown University, 112 Gerard House, 54 College St., Box 1918 Providence, RI 02912


In his recent book, The Limits of Medicine (Cambridge University Press, 2006), Andrew Stark cites Joseph Rosen’s statement that “were he given permission by a medical ethics board, he would try to engineer a person to have wings” (p. 31). In order to block this possibility, Stark proposes that biomedical technology be rejected as artificial enhancement if it would bring users to a level that no one has reached by nonmedical means, such as diet and exercise. My paper argues that there is no more reason to accept this stricture than to accept a stricture against “artificial” cars, trains, and planes that enable people to travel faster than anyone has ever done on his own two feet. As John Stuart Mill has pointed out, “In sober truth, nearly all the things which men are hanged or imprisoned for doing to one another are nature's everyday performances” (Nature, The Utility of Religion, and Theism, Longmans Green and Co., 1923, p. 28). I argue that it is altogether fitting and proper for people to use technology to improve on nature by enhancing our bodies even to the point of engineering informed and consenting adults to have wings, and I discuss some objections to this view.